The pear tree or (Pyrus communis) is one of the most popular fruit trees, know to mankind since prehistorical times.
Very hardy, it can live to be over a hundred years old, and is found all over the planet.
- In the orchard: how to grow a pear tree
Pear and its health benefits
The forests of temperate Europe and of the Middle East, from the Caspian see to the Atlantic ocean, were the first to welcome the pear tree.
Although the Ancient Greeks cultivated it, the Romans were the ones who formally bred the first cultivars. In the Middle Ages, four or five more varieties were bred, but the fruits were usually hard and dry.
Today, over two thousand varieties of cultivated pears are registered throughout the planet and it is the fifth most eaten fruit in France and the tenth most eaten in America.
- Pears are an excellent source of dietary fiber, guaranteeing smooth intestinal transit and an increase in stools. Note: the peel of the pear contains more fiber than its flesh.
- With very low calorie intake, 50 kcal / 3.5 oz (100 g), the energy fuel one gets from pears essentially comes from its carbohydrates, 0.5 oz (15 g) / 3.5 oz (100 g).
- Multiple phenolic compounds are found in a pear, especially in the peel. These are known to have antioxidant properties which contribute to preventing various cancers, diabetes and obesity.
- With high levels of vitamin C, pear stimulates our immune system and contributes to the good health of our skeleton.
- Like apples, a pear is a diuretic, purgative and laxative. Take note though: weak stomachs sometimes have trouble digesting it. If you’re in that situation, boiled pears, baked pears or pear marmelade are the way to eat them.
- Decoctions made from pear tree leaves have diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties. They help alleviate urinary pain and are recommended for their medicinal benefits in case of cystitis, bladder diseases and disorders of the prostate.
Growing pear tree for pears and its health benefits
You can plant pear trees in any region with an altitude lower than 3,300 feet (1,000 meters). The type of soil it appreciates is rich, loamy, deep and cool, with no excessive moisture nor chalk. It doesn’t like the extreme dryness of sandy soils and is vulnerable to draught. The ideal exposure of a pear tree is south/south-east or south/south-west.
- Watch out for frost that can damage spring flowers. Flowers and fruits are generally destroyed when the temperature sinks below 28°F (-2°C).
- In humid weather or in case of heavy rains, fruits tend to fall off, and overloaded branches break before harvest.
- You may try to grow a pear tree in a pot, provided the container is at least 16 inches (40 cm) deep and wide, drains very well (water drainage hole and bed of gravel at the bottom of the pot), and it is watered generously, especially in summer. Thin fruits if needed to keep a maximum of 3 or 4 fruits per branch (no fruits during the first year to ensure the root system has enough nutrients to develop thoroughly).
- In the orchard: how to grow a pear tree
Pears in cooking for their health benefits
- Raw pears can be eaten alone or with other fruits together, in a fruit salad, but did you know it pairs deliciously with salty dishes, too, like corn salad, endives, Roquefort cheese and ham?
- Baked or poached, it is supreme with chocolate (the famous Belle Helene pear dessert) or sweet red wine. Pears can also be cooked in pies, clafoutis, ice cream and mousses.
- And to cite a few grand classics of French cuisine, why not serve pears as a go-between during meals, the fruit refreshing the palate before cheese is served (hence the meaning of a French idiomatic expression, “between the pear and the cheese”, to mean in a casual or informal manner). It can actually be serve with the cheese, slices of cheese and pears alternating to make the flavors tingle in the mouth.
- Smart tip: if you wish to keep raw pear flesh pearly white, dab it with lemon juice so that it doesn’t darken.
Nutritional content of pears
50 kcal / 3.5 oz (100 g), pears are decidedly low-calorie fruits. Fiber-rich, it has also high levels of vitamins B and C, minerals and trace elements.
Pears are also potassium-rich, which explains why it is a good diuretic.